Colombian President Ivan Duque said a helicopter carrying him along with several senior officials came under fire in the southern region of Catatumbo, on the border with Venezuela, in a rare case of a direct attack on a presidential plane.
Duque said everyone on the helicopter was safe, including Defense Minister Diego Molano; the Minister of the Interior, Daniel Palacios and the Governor of the State of Norte de Santander, Silvano Serrano.
“I want to inform the country that after fulfilling a pledge in Sardinata in Catatumbo, on the approach to the city of Cúcuta, the presidential helicopter was the victim of an attack”the president said in a statement on Friday.
He said the helicopter’s equipment and capabilities “prevented something deadly from happening”.
“Both the aerial device and the capability of the aircraft prevented something deadly from happening. The truth is that it is a cowardly attack, where traces of bullets are observed on the presidential apparatus “, said the Colombian president.
Duque had traveled to Sardinata, a town in the troubled region of Catatumbo, with his interior ministers, Daniel Palacios, and defense ministers, Diego Molano, as well as with the governor of Norte de Santander, Silvano Serrano. , for a government activity. The attack took place as they were returning to Cúcuta (capital of the department), from where they were going to return to Bogota.
A video released by the presidency showed several bullet holes in the Colombian Air Force helicopter.
Duque did not provide the time of the attack or indicate who he said carried it out, but several armed groups are known to operate in the area.
Cucuta was already on security alert after a car bomb attack on June 14 at a military base that left 36 soldiers and civilians injured.
Colombian authorities have said they suspect dissidents from the now defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or the rebel National Liberation Army. The latter denied being behind the attack.
When Tory Duque began his presidency in 2018, the government said it was investigating possible planned attacks on the president at a public event. The attacks never materialized.